Written By: Adam Poedubicky
The improbable run the New York Jets made to the AFC Championship was a thrill ride for all kinds of fans: the Colts were for those who loved great passing and a balanced attack and the Jets played it old school, running more than passing and playing sound defense. Ultimately, the Colts went on to beat the Jets to make it to the Super Bowl.
You can’t chalk up a total loss in the AFC Championship to Peyton Manning and the Colts. However, as a lover of old school “three yards and a cloud of dust” football, it was frustrating to see Manning effortlessly pick apart the Jets’ #1 ranked defense. Heck, not only was it the #1 ranked defense, it was the #1 ranked passing defense, led by Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, Darrelle Revis, who had 6 interceptions on the season and was well-known for completing shutting down whatever receiver he decided to cover for the day. In the AFC Championship, he held All-Pro wide receiver Reggie Wayne to 3 catches for 55 yards.
To stop the Colts, shutting down the #1 option in Reggie Wayne is a good first step. However, second-year player Pierre Garcon (from Division III Mount Union) posted career numbers, having 11 catches, 151 yards, and a touchdown. Also, BYU rookie Austin Collie added 7 catches, 123 yards, and a TD of his own.
Granted, these guys had Peyton Manning throwing them the rock. The Colts’ offensive line, as it has all year, made sure Peyton had a generous amount of time in the pocket. But these receivers were not even supposed to be starters until rookie Anthony Gonzalez went down with a knee injury. If Lito Sheppard, Dwight Lowery, and Donald Strickland can’t stop two rookies from running in circles around them, whom exactly do they plan on stopping?
Go back to the Week 6 loss to Buffalo, who was then 1-4. “Revis Island” shut down Terrell Owens, holding him to 3 catches for 13 yards. On the other side? The unexciting but reliable Lee Evans catches a 37 yard touchdown, running right past Dwight Lowery. In a Week 11 loss to the Patriots, Revis held Randy Moss to 5 catches, 34 yards, and a touchdown. These are good numbers, but certainly not Randy-Moss-like numbers. On the other side? Wes Welker hauls in 15 catches for 192 yards, both career highs.
The way things looks right now, all roads that lead to the Super Bowl will feature a vaunted passing attack, whether it’s the Colts, Patriots, or Chargers. The Jets have a great foundation build for their defense. However, they cannot expect to beat any of the teams just mentioned with the depreciating Lito Sheppard expected to cover Pierre Garcon, Wes Welker, or Malcolm Floyd. The Jets got hot when it mattered last year, but don’t forget that it took a Raiders’ win over the Broncos to seal their playoff birth.
A solution? Spending, at lowest, a second round draft pick on a corner will help. Although the experts love Golden Tate going to the Jets at 29, a fresh corner to play opposite Darrelle Revis for the next decade will prove to pay more dividends than drafting a Leon Washington/Jericho Cotchery hybrid in Tate. By drafting a new corner, the Jets won’t have to bother relying on the Raiders to pull out an elusive win to make it into the playoffs: they can do it on their own.